On his first day in office, Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a commitment to leave behind a State Department ready to meet the tests of the 21st century. Today, at the Foreign Service Institute, Blinken announced plans to modernize American Diplomacy in order to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.
Plans are in place for the establishment of the Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy and a new Special Envoy for Critical and Emerging Technology. Both the new bureau and envoy will continue to lead America’s engagement in the world. The Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy will focus on international cyberspace security, international digital policy and digital freedom, aspects of foreign policy that have become critical in recent years. The Special Envoy for Critical and Emerging Technology will lead the immediate technology diplomacy and partnerships agenda. “We want to make sure the technology works for democracy, fighting back against disinformation, standing up for internet freedom, reducing the misuse of surveillance technology,” Blinken said.
The State Department will also be working to build capacity and expertise in climate, cybersecurity and emerging technologies, global health, economics and multilateral diplomacy to strengthen national security and further modernize the Department. “This isn’t just a new list of priorities by a new administration,” Blinken said. “It reflects a significant reorientation of U.S. foreign policy that focuses on the forces that most directly and consequentially affect Americans’ lives, livelihoods, and security, and that will increasingly be at the heart of our alliances and partnerships, and core to our engagement with strategic competitors.”
Blinken also outlined plans to strengthen new voices and promote a climate of initiative and innovation. The Department will continue to encourage employees to share their ideas with decision-makers, foster an environment of constructive, professional dissent and listen more to the American people. “We also want to hear more from the American people,” Blinken said. “Our mission is to deliver for them and all those who have an equity in the work that we do.”
“We want to make sure the technology works for democracy, fighting back against disinformation, standing up for internet freedom, reducing the misuse of surveillance technology.”Antony J. BlinkenSecretary of State
Blinken also plans to modernize the Department by winning the battle for talent, building and retaining a diverse, dynamic, and entrepreneurial workforce, thereby empowering and equipping all employees to succeed. “Our diversity as a nation in backgrounds and experiences, in race, religion, ethnicity, in countries of origin, is among our greatest competitive advantages in the world,” Blinken noted. “Failing to draw on that diversity shortchanges our foreign policy and our ability to advance our interests in the world.”
To further prepare for the challenges of the 21st century and better connect with global audiences, the Department will be modernizing its technology, communications, and analytical capabilities to work more flexibly, efficiently, and securely. “The United States is the most technologically advanced country on Earth,” Blinken said. “The State Department should be empowered by that strength.”
Per Blinken’s new plans, the Department will also be updating overseas operating posture to enable the kind of on-the-ground, in-person diplomacy that is essential to advance U.S. foreign policy goals.“We can keep our people and their families safe, while also standing up new locations overseas quickly to respond to changing events, and while engaging more outside embassy walls and extending our reach to cities, communities, commercial centers beyond national capitals,” Blinken said. “A world of zero risk is not a world in which American diplomacy can deliver.”
These new reforms are not just for the sake of reforming. They’re directly part of our mission and goals set for ourselves, Blinken noted. “In the time that we have here, it’s our privilege to do all we can to leave this department stronger than we found it, so that when we pass the baton to those who follow, they can grab it and run even further ahead,” Blinken said.
Click here to read Secretary Blinken’s full remarks on Modernizing American Diplomacy.
About the Author: Mathew Willoughby is an intern in the Bureau of Global Public Affairs’ Office of Global Social Media.